DOW hears concerns on herd sizes |

DOW hears concerns on herd sizes

Brandon Johnson

Harry Peroulis sees the effects of Northwest Colorado’s massive elk herds every day.

He said the elk run over fences, overgraze the land and interfere with sheep on his ranch north of Craig.

“They have got to reduce the elk population,” Peroulis said Wednesday. “That’s all there is to it.”

Peroulis was one of about 30 people to attend a Division of Wildlife meeting Wednesday in Craig. The meeting, which was held at the Shadow Mountain Village Clubhouse, looked at the elk population in northern Moffat County.

DOW officials are in the process of setting new population objectives for elk. Input from public meetings and recommendations from land management agencies such as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management will play a role in setting those objectives.

Wednesday’s meeting focused on the Bears Ears elk herd, which runs from the Wyoming border south to U.S. Highway 40 and from the Little Snake River east to the Continental Divide.

DOW estimates the Bears Ears herd has about 17,000 elk, almost 5,000 more than the population objective set in 1992.

The Bears Ears population peaked in 2001 at about 30,000 and has been decreasing since, according to DOW statistics.

The DOW planned to set new objectives in 2001, but fears of chronic wasting disease forced them to put it off until now.

According to DOW terrestrial biologist Darby Finley, the population is over-objective because the count in 1992 was off. Elk live longer and reproduce more than DOW officials thought, Finley said Wednesday.

DOW officials have been trying to reduce the number of elk in the Bears Ears region for years, Finley said.

“There is still plenty (of elk) out there,” Finley said. “We’re still in that reduction phase.”

The DOW issued more hunting licenses in recent years and allows hunting on private land through January in an effort to get the elk population down.

According to DOW statistics, about 25,000 elk in the Bears Ears herd were killed by hunters in the last three years.

But some people at Wednesday’s meeting didn’t think the DOW numbers were accurate.

Craig rancher Brad Smith said he has no confidence in DOW’s population estimates and doesn’t think the elk population has been reduced in recent years.

“I don’t think your counts are accurate,” Smith said. “I really don’t.”

Smith said elk ate all the small aspen trees where he runs sheep.

“They have torn this country to pieces,” Smith said.

Despite statistics presented at Wednesday’s meeting showing a reduction of elk in the area, Smith said he doesn’t believe there has been a reduction.

“I’m on the ground and I don’t see a reduction,” Smith said.

DOW senior terrestrial biologist Jeff Madison said DOW underestimated the number of elk in the region in the past, but the division is trying to get a more accurate estimate.

“There’s still a ways to go,” Madison said.

The Colorado Wildlife Com–mission will issue new population objectives sometime between November and January.

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